A common Republican reveres Trump as a pillar of strength and security, a fortress against Russian foreign policy interests. In reality, Trump's efforts to dismantle America's strategic alliances played right into Russian President Vladimir Putin's hands. Read more on how Trump's foreign policy impacted European security.
Between the cerebral rhetoric of “Let’s Go Brandon” and the stoked manufactured outrage over an advanced, undergraduate-level, critical theory of sociology remains extant in the Republican Party the deeply flawed and problematic perspective that Trump’s approach towards diplomacy ameliorated Europe’s security against Russia. It is a deeply flawed perspective. It is a specious argument that ignores the decline of NATO and the incessant undermining of diplomacy that occurred in the Trump White House.
The Right is wrong for lauding Trump as an impenetrable strongman in international diplomacy, capable of striking fear into the hearts of global powers like Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia who often benefit from undermining American foreign policy interests. Rather than intimidating, Trump was intimate with authoritarians. A closer look at the defenestration of US foreign service officers showcases the dysfunction of the Trump State Department and general incoherent strategy of US diplomacy during the Trump presidency. Trump’s cozying up with undemocratic leaders, outward impudence towards European allies, and public dismantling of all-important diplomatic corps all led to the decline of the most powerful mechanism that the world has to abate Putin’s imperialism: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
The invasion of Ukraine is a terrible tragedy that was initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to achieve three goals: to conquer a port that does not freeze over during the winter months, to prevent an open democracy on Russia’s border, and to prevent the expansion of NATO. Discussion of Ukraine joining NATO, or even its gradual alignment with Western interests, had been political developments that had unjustly been deemed as threats by Putin. NATO was created to stave off Soviet expansionism during the cold war. But after the cold war ended, right-wing Russian leaders like Putin viewed NATO’s continued post-cold war existence as a permanent threat to Russian sovereignty, or more accurately authoritarianism, along its borders. Furthermore, Putin’s dastardly dream of restoring the Russian Federation borders to the Soviet sphere of influence is directly contested by the existence of NATO.
However, NATO’s existence came into question during the Trump administration, as the leader of the essential defense pact unceremoniously threatened to pull out of NATO. The Trump presidency was disorganized, untrustworthy, and often openly aggressive towards its NATO allies. Putin had an asset in the White House that was actively working to undermine NATO. Putin did not need to risk a ground-war in Europe to prevent NATO expansion- and for good reason. The brave Ukrainian resistance has dealt a great blow to the Russian military, as Russian casualties breach 7,000. During the Trump administration, Putin surely calculated: “Why risk a ground war in Europe to prevent the expansion of NATO when Trump is doing the work of dismantling NATO for me?”
When Republicans say that US foreign policy was strong under Trump, these foreign policy “hawks” fail to recognize that the cohesion we have with Europe in sanctioning Russia now is thanks to Biden’s efforts in restoring our allies’ trust in American leadership. The Biden administration singlehandedly, over the course of months, restarted the previously tattered relations with Europe and NATO allies to implement sanctions and punish Russia for its illegal war of aggression. Developments include sanctions directed towards all Russian assets, sanctions on the oligarchs that pull the strings in Russian politics and owe allegiances to Vladimir Putin, and removing Russia from the SWIFT banking system barring Russia from making almost any and all transactions. With American leadership under the Biden administration, the Russian economy has been sent tumbling into obscurity impacted by the full weight of the liberal internationalist institutions which have driven global development since the 1950s.